From Customer Service to Customer Experience

By Tim Montgomery
Contact centers play a critical role in the customer experience; however, it is important for organizations to understand that the center is just one piece of a much bigger pie. Progressive organizations are starting to take more of an outside-in approach to the way they are measuring service success. By starting at the end of the process (customer fulfillment) and working your way back through every touchpoint from an external perspective, companies quickly realize there are a number of potential points of failure, and many lie outside the realm of the contact center. Once the potential pitfalls are identified, companies can connect the actions of every department back to the customer experience to create an external view of the customer that is now "top of mind" for all employees.

Case in Point: Dumb Happens
About 15 years ago, we were working with a 10,000-seat call center to help them improve their operational effectiveness. The direction from senior management was to create a crossfunctional team to uncover opportunities for avoiding unnecessary contacts–basically, a call-avoidance initiative. The project took on a life of its own: project charters, picking players, dealing with hurt feelings, internal politics, etc. Because of senior leadership's involvement, many of the team members were focused on getting their face-time to show just how smart they were. The team spent weeks developing a document that would help guide this very “complex” project.

When the very detailed project plan and timeline was presented to the senior leadership team, the company president quickly realized that a simple task had turned into a complex internally focused project. In his opinion, the team had missed the entire point; he wanted his organization to stop doing “dumb” things that inconvenienced customers and drove up support cost.

He called in several frontline employees and asked them a simple question: “Do dumb things happen?” The ideas generated in this one meeting became the foundation for countless process improvement initiatives. This team of frontline “process improvement engineers” helped the organization reach out to all of the touchpoints outside the center and develop an outside-in approach to service. Over time, the ideas generated from this program saved the organization hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary activity and improved customer satisfaction.

There are several take-aways from this story:
1. Realize that most of the calls handled in the call center are not generated by the center. A customer touchpoint roadmap is a key element to connecting the entire organization to the contact center. While many centers have codes that tell them why customers call, there normally isn’t a direct link back to that department to help them improve the underlying driver. And, when there is, it’s often included in after-the-fact reports that don’t include a real understanding of the impacts on support costs or the customer experience.

2. Empower the front line to provide you with new ideas and ways to improve processes. Call centers often get feedback from their agents on ways to improve things within the four walls of the center, but don’t take the time to connect the center with the entire customer experience. Transforming agents’ mindset to that of “process improvement engineers” is easy, and they love being involved in programs that lead to a greater customer experience.

3. What seems to be complex can often be addressed with some small yet simple changes in the way the center’s performance is measured. Conversations with the front line about improvement often results in them saying things like, “We’d like to do that, but…” In many cases, the “but” is a roadblock that is tied to some traditional “inside-out” call center metric. Getting more outside feedback (direct customers, internal support areas, all customer touchpoints, vendors) provides a much clearer view of what needs to change.


Consumers’ preferences for using multiple channels to engage companies have presented considerable challenges for contact centers. Dave Spedden, director of CRM technology for package delivery firm UPS, has identified four trends that impact service organizations in meeting customers’ multichannel needs: 1) visibility—trying to identify and track all of the different contact paths (e.g., live agent, IVR, email, web, mobile apps, etc.) and behaviors; 2) evolution of technology—which has a tremendous influence on consumer behavior; 3) individuality—customers want you to know all of their different preferences; and 4) complexity—the flexibility of CRM technology adds a level of complexity around customer preferences that companies will need to learn how to manage and leverage.
Read the full story here. (PDF)


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